‘Squat to exhaustion’: meet Alice Oppenheimer

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If you’ve been paying any attention to the dressage scene in the past year, Alice Oppenheimer’s name has been one you can’t have missed. Taking two titles at the winter championships in April, picking up a win at Windsor in May, and following that up with a thumping prix st georges (PSG) victory at the British Dressage national championships on Thursday, Alice has dominated across the board this year with the eight-year-old Tantoni Sir Soccrates (Sir Donnerhall x White Magic).

How has 2015 been for you?

‘Soccs’ has exceeded all expectations, humungously, this year – he took to the prix st georges work like a duck to water. He came out of his first PSG and it was like he was thinking “why haven’t we been doing this forever?”. But if someone had said to me at the beginning of the year that I’d win the PSG at the nationals, I would have told them not to be ridiculous – it’s such an achievement against all these long-established, well thought-of riders – it’s crazy that we’re holding our own.

Tell us about your fitness regime

I’ve got 10 horses in work at the moment so we are busy, but I try to have either a personal training session or do an Insanity workout five times a week – I’ve been doing it since May and I’m really enjoying it, but now I need to keep it up through the winter. I feel a lot stronger, and I can help the horses more now that I’m more stable – some of them give my core a really good workout! During a World Class assessment once, I was asked to squat to exhaustion – after 71 squats, I was still going.

What are your aims for this year?

With Bracken, I’m aiming her at grand prix – she feels the best at this stage that she ever has. Soccs will build over the winter, and confirm the grand prix work at home – he’s only eight so he may stay at small tour next year, we’ll see how he goes.

With Del [Headmore Delegate, who was withdrawn from the grand prix at the nationals with pus in the foot], I’ll crack on and aim for a team spot at Rio. It’s not that I expect to go, but it’s nice to feel confident that if things go my way I could be there. In my last lesson on him with Charlotte [Dujardin, Alice’s trainer] she gave me 72-73% for the grand prix test – and she didn’t make me do anything again! It’s disappointing he couldn’t be here at the nationals, but there’s always another day.

What’s next for you?

I’ll take Soccs to HOYS in October, but it’s a big ask as he is better outdoors – he was more nervous at the winter championships, but it will be good to expose him – I went the first year they ran it with Del and loved it, the atmosphere was amazing, and it worked well to lift him.

What else have you got coming through the ranks?

I have a big six-year-old that really moves (Dimaggio x Rubinstein), and I also have his full sister – but they are chalk and cheese, as different as it’s possible for two siblings to be. The five-year-old has been tricky to back, but she’s a brave mare – safe when you’re on, but the six-year-old is scared of his own shadow. I also have a five-year-old buckskin Dimaggio – everyone’s going to be surprised when I come out on a yellow one. Bracken is already a grandmother, and we have two embryo transfer foals by Florencio. I’ll keep the filly, as she reminds me so much of Bracken – she’s as similar as she could be. Our horses are members of the family; I’ve always said you have to love a horse to ride it well.

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